CIO · Cloud

Three key changes to look for in 2018

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2017 has officially come to a close and 2018 has already started with a bang. As I look forward to what 2018 brings, the list is incredibly long and detailed. The genres of topics are equally long and cover people, process, technology, culture, business, social, economic and geopolitical boundaries…just to name a few.

Here are three highlights on my otherwise lengthy list…

EVOLVING THE CIO

I often state that after spending almost three decades in IT, now is the best time to work in technology. That statement is still true today.

One could not start a conversation about technology without first considering the importance of the technology leader and role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO, as the most senior person leading the IT organization, takes on a very critical role for any enterprise. That was true in the past, and increasingly so moving forward.

In my post ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’, I outline many of the differences in the ever-evolving role of the CIO. Those traits will continue to evolve as the individual, organization, leadership and overall industry change to embrace a new way to leverage technology. Understanding the psyche of the CIO is something one simply cannot do without experiencing the role firsthand. Yet, understanding how this role is evolving is exactly what will help differentiate companies in 2018 and beyond.

In 2018, we start to see the emerging role of ‘Transformational’ CIO in greater numbers. Not only does the CIO see the need for change, so does the executive leadership team of the enterprise. The CIO becomes less of a technology leader and more of a business leader that has responsibility for technology. As I have stated in the past, this is very different from that of the ‘CEO of Technology’ concept that others have bandied about. In addition, there is a sense of urgency for the change as the business climate becomes increasingly competitive from new entrants and vectors. Culture and geopolitical changes will also impact the changing role of the CIO and that of technology.

TECHNOLOGY HITS ITS STRIDE

In a similar vein to that of the CIO, technology finds its stride in 2018. Recent years have shown a lot of experimentation in the hopes of leverage and success. This ‘shotgun’ approach has been very risky…and costly for enterprises. That is not to say that experimentation is a bad thing. However, the role of technology in mainstream business evolves in 2018 where enterprises face the reality that they must embrace change and technology as part of that evolution.

Executives will look for ways to, mindfully, leverage technology to create business advantage and differentiation. Instead of sitting at the extremes of either diving haphazardly into technology or analysis paralysis, enterprises will strike a balance to embrace technology in a thoughtful, but time-sensitive way. The concept of ‘tech for tech sake’ becomes a past memory like that of the dialup modem.

One hopeful wish is that boards will stop the practice of dictating technology decisions as they have in the past with mandating their organization use cloud. That is not to say cloud is bad, but rather to suggest that a more meaningful business discussion take place that may leverage cloud as one of many tools in an otherwise broadening arsenal.

CLOUD COMES OF AGE IN ALL FORMS

Speaking of cloud, a wholesale shift takes place in 2018 where we pass the inflection point in our thinking about cloud. For the enterprise, public cloud has already reached a maturity point with all three major public cloud providers offering solid solutions for any given enterprise.

Beyond public cloud, the concept of private cloud moves from theory to reality as solutions mature and the kinks worked out. Historically, private cloud was messy and challenging even for the most sophisticated enterprise to adopt. The theory of private cloud is incredibly alluring and now has reached a point where it can become a reality for the average enterprise. Cloud computing, in its different forms has finally come of age.

 

In summary, 2017 has taught us many tough lessons in which to leverage in 2018. Based on the initial read as 2017 came to a close, 2018 looks to be another incredible year for all of us! Let us take a moment to be grateful for what we have and respect those around us. The future is bright and we have much to be thankful for.

Happy New Year!

Business · Cloud · Data

Microsoft empowers the developer at Connect

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This week at Microsoft Connect in New York City, Microsoft announced a number of products geared toward bringing intelligence and the computing edge closer together. The tools continue Microsoft’s support of a varied and growing ecosystem of evolving solutions. At the same time, Microsoft demonstrated their insatiable drive to woo the developer with a number of tools geared toward modern development and advanced technology.

EMBRACING THE ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY

Microsoft has tried hard in the past several years to shed their persona of Microsoft-centricity of a .NET Windows world. Similar to their very vocal support for inclusion and diversity in culture, Microsoft brings that same perspective to the tools, solutions and ecosystems they support. The reality is that the world is diverse and it is this very diversity that makes us stronger. Technology is no different.

At the Connect conference, similar to their recent Build & Ignite conferences, .NET almost became a footnote as much of the discussion was around other tools and frameworks. In many ways, PHP, Java, Node and Python appeared to get mentioned more than .NET. Does this mean that .NET is being deprecated in favor of newer solutions? No. But it does show that Microsoft is moving beyond just words in their drive toward inclusivity.

EXPANDING THE DEVELOPER TOOLS

At Connect, Microsoft announced a number of tools aimed squarely at supporting the modern developer. This is not the developer of years past. Today’s developer works in a variety of tools, with different methods and potentially in separate locations. Yet, they need the ability to collaborate in a meaningful way. Enter Visual Studio Live Share. What makes VS Live Share interesting is how it supports collaboration between developers in a more seamless way without the cumbersome screen sharing approach previously used. The level of sophistication that VS Live Share brings is impressive in that it allows each developer to walk through code in their own way while they debug and collaborate. While VS Live Share is only in preview, other recently-announced tools are already seeing significant adoption in a short period of time that ranges in the millions of downloads.

In the same vein of collaboration and integration, DevOps is of keen interest to most enterprise IT shops. Microsoft showed how Visual Studio Team Services embraces DevOps in a holistic way. While the demonstration was impressive, the question of scalability often comes into the picture for large, integrated teams. It was mentioned that VS Team Services is currently used by the Microsoft Windows development team and their whopping 25,000 developers.

Add to scale the ability to build ‘safe code’ pipelines with automation that creates triggers to evaluate code in-process and one can quickly see how Microsoft is taking the modern, sophisticated development process to heart.

POWERING DATA AND AI IN THE CLOUD

In addition to developer tools, time was spent talking about Azure, data and Databricks. I had the chance to sit down with Databricks CEO Ari Ghodsi to talk about how Azure Databricks is bringing the myriad of data sources together for the enterprise. The combination of Databricks on Azure provides the scale and ecosystem that highlights the power of Databricks to integrate the varied data sources that every enterprise is trying to tap into.

MIND THE DEVELOPER GAP

Developing applications that leverage analytics and AI is incredibly important, but not a trivial task. It often requires a combination of skills and experience to fully appreciate the value that comes from AI. Unfortunately, developers often do not have the data science skills nor business context needed in today’s world. I spoke with Microsoft’s Corey Sanders after his keynote about how Microsoft is bridging the gap for the developer. Both Sanders & Ghodsi agree that the gap is an issue. However, through the use of increasingly sophisticated tools such as Databricks and Visual Studio, Sanders & Ghodsi believe Microsoft is making a serious attempt at bridging this gap.

It is clear that Microsoft is getting back to its roots and considering the importance of the developer in an enterprise’s digital transformation journey. While there are still many gaps to fill, it is interesting to see how Microsoft is approaching the evolving landscape and complexity that is the enterprise reality.

Cloud

Kicking off Cloud Field Day 2

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Tomorrow kicks off Cloud Field Day 2 (#CFD2) here in the San Francisco Bay Area and thankful for the invitation to take part. CFD2 brings together an interesting mix of vendors and cloud solutions over the next three days. Here is the rundown of who is participating:

In addition, Thursday evening is the Microservices Meetup, Cloud Field Day Edition. All in all, the meetings this week and the Meetup should provide interesting information on where these companies are with regards to cloud.

While I have quite a bit of experience with most of the companies on this list, there are couple of new ones. And I am always on the lookout for new, disruptive companies. Over the next few days, look for a series of tweets from the group and join in using the hashtag #CFD2.

Business · CIO

Understanding the Network Effect in IT

When discussing the combination of Information Technology (IT) & network, one quickly runs to thinking about cabling, connectors, switches, hubs and routers. However, there is another type of network that has nothing to do with technology yet directly impacts the effectiveness of an IT organization. This type of network involves people, empathy, credibility and humility.

THE NETWORK EFFECT

Many enterprise organizations believe that the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or the senior most person in IT is the key person that engages with the rest of the company. That is only slightly correct as it ignores the impact from the rest of the IT organization. And it is this impact that actually has a more significant bearing on how those outside of the IT organization view the organization itself. What is at work here is the Network Effect.

How does the network effect affect IT? Let us assume that the CIO spends all 40 hours each week engaging with those outside of IT. Yet, their staff of 100 only spends 20% of their time engaging outside of IT. That would equate to (100 staff x 20% of time x 40 hrs/wk) 800 hours each week or 20x more time than the CIO.

While it is important for the CIO to carry a consistent and appropriate message when engaging with those outside of IT, the same is true for rest of the IT organization. The more people that engage with folks outside of IT, the greater the network effect. And from a numbers perspective, the impact is significant. So is the risk.

UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES

Creating a consistent message and culture is a critical objective for any leader, not just the CIO. However, when it comes to IT, there are other factors that can turn a positive opportunity into a negative experience.

Most leaders understand the importance of credibility and empathy. This is especially true when considering the support nature of an IT organization. When moving further into the organization, these qualities are often less developed or immature. As a consequence, a potentially positive interaction can quickly turn negative in the form of diminishing credibility for the entire organization.

Each organization is unique in their culture, leadership, and way they engage. Whether it be the CIO or their staff, one should never lose sight of the big picture as it provides the context and guidance for everyone in the company. It is easy to get caught up in the situation and lose sight of the overall situation. Even the smallest actions can have a demonstrable impact.

Too often, IT folks try to mask transparency and quickly run toward solutions centered around their frame of reference which often comes from a siloed perspective. As such, they lack empathy in the user’s situation and how it relates to the big picture.

THE SOFT SKILLS

In IT, we tend to focus on the hard skills of technology with less emphasis on the softer side. Yet, it is those soft skills that can quickly turn a situation into either a positive or negative one. Showing genuine empathy to a situation without placing blame creates a very different perspective.

In the end, whether you are a CIO, leader of an IT organization or individual contributor, it is important to understand the impact of your actions and the actions of your staff. Even those interactions that may seem innocuous can have a resounding and lasting effect. It can lead to building credibility or tearing it down. And credibility is what provides the foundation for relationships, yet we often do not think about how our actions build or diminish it. Hence, the network effect creates a level of opportunity and challenge.

CIO

The CIO: Thinking like a CEO

img_0665Over the past 30 years, now is the best time to be a CIO. The role of the CIO is in transition. At the same time, the CIO is increasingly more critical to businesses. The CIO role is moving from a Traditional CIO to a Transformational CIO. As technology becomes a necessity in defining business, the shift to a transformational CIO brings out a business focus and ultimately drives technology leadership. It is this same business focus that governs the priorities of the CEO and shared by the rest of the executive team including the CIO.

Historically, the connection between the CIO and the CEO spanned a dot or two. That doesn’t tell the true story as even roles two steps from the CEO were worlds apart. As a company progresses through their digital transformation journey, the role of the CIO increases in prominence and moves closer to the CEO. In turn, the CIO must change their thinking to that of the CEO…and the rest of the executive team. To be clear, the message is not for the CIO to run their IT organization like a CEO as that methodology brings a very different outcome.

A SHIFT IN THINKING

The role of the transformational CIO is very different from that of their predecessors. As discussed in ‘The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO’ the CIO, along with the rest of the organization experiences a dramatic shift in thinking. Speed and accuracy define the business decision making process. Executives rely on technology more than ever to make good business decisions. The CIO sits at the forefront by leading the technology organization.

The focus of the CIO is alignment with the CEO. In many ways, the CIO exhibits traits of the CEO while still identifying opportunities where technology becomes the differentiating strategic weapon to solving business problems. In organizations with close synergy between the CIO and CEO, the outcomes are incredibly positive.

LEARNING BY EXAMPLE

Aligning with the CEO’s thinking brings a unique clarity. However, for many CIOs, getting into a c-suite mentality is not a trivial task. It requires a change in language and perspective. In the process, the CIO adopts the conversations of the c-suite. Put another way, if the c-suite is not having the conversation, neither should the CIO. Technology conversations are replaced with business conversations. Technology becomes an enabler to business advantage, in business terms and not in technical jargon.

For years, the CIO has yearned for ‘a seat at the table’. Namely, to be considered an equal among fellow c-suite peers. Now, more than ever, it is vital for the CIO at the table. Like respect, a seat at the table is something earned, not an entitlement. Once there, one must continue to prove their ability to maintain the seat. Nor is a seat at the table the end state. The importance of technology to a company’s strategy is driving some organizations to consider putting CIOs on their Board of Directors further proving that the CIO’s role is not the end state of potential for the individual.

DRIVING TOWARD CIO EXCELLENCE

The vision of the leader proves paramount in driving toward success. Culture takes time to change and so does the role of the CIO. It starts first with leading by example. One of the first steps in the journey is Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO. By changing the language, it telegraphs a clear message of inclusion and business focus. Second is a fundamental understanding of the business. Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business, lead by the CIO and through different perspectives. A third step is in building relationships with executives including the CEO. Until there is a relationship, it is hard to build trust and respect. These three steps are vital to the success of both the CIO and the company as it experiences the digital transformation journey.

For the CIO, the role could not be more vital nor exciting. Now is the time to seize the opportunity and capture the passion driving business advantage.

Business · CIO · Cloud · Mobile · Social

My top most used business tools and applications when traveling

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What better way to kick off 2017 than to talk about the tools I find to be most useful? I wrote a post back in 2012 that outlined many of the tools I used back then. As many of you know, I travel a lot. Just about every week I am on a plane going somewhere in the world. Compared to many of my fellow corporate executives, it ranks in the excessive category for a CIO.

Considering the amount of travel, I am often asked what tools I find to be most useful. First, it is important to understand that I work under a minimalist perspective. That means, I try to travel with the least amount that I can. The lighter the load, the happier the experience.

LUGGAGE

First rule of travel: Carry-on, do not check luggage unless you absolutely must. There are many reasons for this. If you travel a lot, you need to invest in good-quality luggage. While I have a full collection of Tumi luggage, which I swear by, there are two pieces that I use most frequently:

Tumi Alpha 2: International Expandable 2 Wheeled Carry-On

Tumi Alpha 2: Compact Laptop Brief Pack

These two pieces offer the most flexibility when traveling both domestically and internationally and fit my technology needs very well.

HARDWARE

Ok, on to the technology part of the post. There are two fundamental components that I have used for years now; an iPhone and an iPad. With rare exceptions, these are the only two devices I travel with. Here are the details of what I am currently using:

iPhone 6s Plus: The iPhone offers the ability to make calls while traveling internationally. It also syncs with the iPad. The 6s Plus is the first time I am using the larger screen. In hindsight, the smaller screen size is probably a better choice for me. While the larger size is nice from a real estate perspective, the size is excessive for most things. In addition, it is almost impossible to do anything on the phone with only one hand.

iPad Pro 9.7”: This is an upgrade from the iPad Air, iPad 3 and original iPad I used previously. The iPad platform offers the ability to do a myriad of things using a single device (see software below). The physical size is both compact and not obtrusive when sitting on a desk or table in a meeting. I use the version with Wi-Fi & Cellular. I find that most Wi-Fi networks at hotels, airports, train stations, conventions are simply unreliable. Not to mention the security of those networks. Cellular access allows bypassing many of the issues and LTE is plenty fast.

Apple Pencil: This is a new, and welcome addition to the list. The Apple Pencil finally provides the ability to take detailed handwritten notes and drawing without the relatively crude capabilities that stylus’ offered.

Logitech Create Keyboard: The new Logitech Create keyboard for the iPad Pro not only offers a nice, protective keyboard plus case, but also integrates with the Pro’s Smart Connector and has a spot to hold the Apple Pencil. A good keyboard is a must if you write while on the road. By using the Pro’s Smart Connector, there is no need to use Bluetooth, or charge the keyboard. The keyboard itself is both backlit and has large keys suitable for larger hands. One side note, if you are flying economy, the keyboard and iPad combination is usable, unlike many laptops.

Bose SoundTrue Headphones: These are some of the most comfortable headphones you will find! The do not rely on putting pressure on the ear canal…which can lead to headaches and ear aches. While not noise-cancelling, they are the next best thing. I can wear these all day without ear fatigue.

Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise-Cancelling Headphones: These are a must for long-haul flights. I typically do not travel with them unless traveling across the country or internationally. If you have not experienced noise-cancelling headphones, I find that they dramatically reduce fatigue from long flights. One side note, I have found that the Airbus A380 is the quietest commercial airplane flying today…even more so than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The A380 is so quiet that you almost do not need noise-cancelling headphones.

Tumi 4-Port USB Travel Adapter: It offers (2) 2A USB ports and (2) 1A USB ports plus includes the different international plug adapters in a nice small package. The Tumi adapter is fused and a perfect addition to eliminate all the different bricks and adapters.

Mophie Powerstation XL: Battery packs are pretty much a necessity these days. However, I find that both the iPhone and iPad offer full-day coverage. The exception is when I travel to conferences and/ or am on the phone and/or iPad non-stop all-day. Or if I am going from breakfast meetings to evening events non-stop. Unlike finding a power outlet which then ties you to that spot while charging, the Mophie provides on-the-go charging.

Apple Airport Express: Traveling Internationally brings on a new set of issues. There are still hotels that offer Wi-Fi in the lobby, but wired connections in the room. This creates a problem when only traveling with an iPad. To combat the issue, I throw this small, self-contained, router in the suitcase when traveling internationally. Note that this is becoming less of an issue. As a side note, when traveling with the family, I use this router to connect all our devices without having to connect each device directly to the hotel Wi-Fi. Each of the phones and tablets are already configured to use the secure Wi-Fi setup on the router. Plus, it gets around many hotels that limit the number of devices connected in a room.

Apple Lightning Adapters: When presenting, you never know which interface you will need. Thankfully, both the iPhone and iPad use the same Lightning adapters. I travel with both VGA and HDMI adapters. I can then choose whether I present off the iPhone or iPad. Note that when presenting, it will quickly drain the battery…so plan accordingly.

SOFTWARE

Now on to the applications…

Microsoft Office for iOS: The first versions of the Microsoft Office apps for iOS were incredibly limited in functionality. However, the more current versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are both feature-rich and integrate well with Box.

Box: Box provides an enterprise-grade solution that syncs well with both desktop and mobile devices. The iOS app allows me to choose which files and/or folders I wish to sync for off-line use. This is great for working on documents while on an airplane. The application also allows me to share file/ folder access with others to collaborate.

iThoughts: When creating a presentation, or brainstorming an idea, iThoughts provides a great mind-mapping tool.

Notability: Notability is one of the best note-taking tools I have used. The combination of Notability with the Apple Pencil has practically replaced the need for paper & pencil. When meeting with folks and needing to draw, it makes for a great whiteboard solution. I can take notes, draw pictures and quickly send copies via a myriad of ways including email and text.

Twitter/ Tweetbot: If you are on Twitter, one of these two apps is a necessity. I find that Tweetbot offers several features not available in the native application. However, they are getting closer with each release.

LinkedIn: Connecting via LinkedIn is key to engaging with others. The app, while not perfect, is a good companion while on the road.

WordPress: If you post to blogs based on WordPress, the app is a must. For my post workflow, I still write and edit posts in Word and then cut/ past into WordPress. This provides a backup and place to search across posts locally.

Skype: Skype makes it much easier to work with parties in different countries. Skype provides the ability to call and video-conference across geographies.

Slack: There are a myriad of different communication tools on the market today. Different teams use different tools. However, I find that several of the groups I work with prefer to use Slack.

Kayak: Kayak recently discontinued their Pro product by centralizing everything into their base app. I use Kayak as a single point to manage all travel (air, hotel, car, etc). You simply forward the email with your travel information and Kayak parses the details into ‘trips’. I then sync this information into my calendar to see everything in one place.

United: As a United Million Mile Flyer, and based from SFO or LAX, United provides some of the best flight choices to the locations I travel most. The app allows me to change flights, change seats, book flights and get status updates on-the-go.

Miscellaneous iOS Apps: In addition to the third-party apps listed above, I also use the native iOS apps including Mail, Safari, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Music, Messages, Photos, Maps, Contacts, etc. One thing I value with the iOS platform is the ability to sync data and settings across devices.

Miscellaneous Apps: There are several other apps that I use, but they are less for business and more for personal uses. The iPad platform gives me the ability to work, play, read news, watch movies, read books all on one device. Again, less is more.

 

Hopefully that provides a glimpse of what I found to be most useful when traveling. I welcome your suggestions and recommendations too!

Business · CIO · Cloud · IoT

The five most popular posts of 2016

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While 2016 is quickly coming to a close, it offers plenty to reflect on. For the CIO, IT organizations and leaders who work with technology, 2016 offered a glimpse into the future and the cadence in which it takes. We learned how different industries, behaviors and technologies are impacting business decisions, societal norms and economic drivers.

Looking back on 2016, here is a list of the top-5 posts on AVOA.com.

#5: Understanding the five tiers of IoT core architecture

In this July post, I suggest an architecture to model IoT design and thinking.

#4: Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

This May post attracted a ton of attention from CIOs (and non-CIOs) as part of their transformation journey.

#3: IT transformation is difficult, if not impossible, without cloud

Another May post on the importance of the intersection between transformation and cloud.

#2: Microsoft Azure Stack fills a major gap for enterprise hybrid cloud

Only one of two top-five vendor-related posts digs into the importance of Microsoft’s hybrid cloud play.

And the #1 post…

#1: Is HPE headed toward extinction

This provocative post looks at business decisions by HPE and how they impact the enterprise buyer.

2017 is already shaping up nicely with plenty of change coming. And with that, I close out 2016 wishing you a very Happy New Year and an even better 2017!